Loreto Convent School Apiary

At Loreto Convent School, we pride ourselves on providing a full, balanced and varied curriculum for all our pupils, this includes extending the learning and life experiences of our pupils through our curriculum and extra curricular activities.

In April 2019, Mr Devincenzi-Clemens established an apiary within our school grounds, utilising the experience and enthusiasm of local beekeeper and ex-parent Ricky Taylor. We hope to bring exciting new opportunities for our pupils, staff, parents and wider school community, as well as playing our part in protecting and enhancing our natural environment. We must thank Mr Taylor for donating his time and experience, helping to establish and maintain our School Apiary.
Establishing a small apiary will provide our pupils with many exciting cross curricular opportunities.

Hive Sponsorship

We offer a yearly sponsorship of a hive. in 2021-2022 we had two hives sponsored by The Weir Family and The Chaudhary Family, we thank them for their support. If you would like to sponsor a hive then please email bees@loreto.gi to register your interest and receive more information.

The Weirs inspecting their hive, June 2021.

Bee Club

The club will be run during term time after school as part of the Gardening Club for pupils who are in year 6. There will also be opportunities for hive inspections during lunchtimes for pupils and staff who show an interest in furthering their knowledge and understanding.
Further written consent will be obtained for all pupils and staff who will enter the Bee Apiary. The ‘Bee Club’ in school will be led by Mr Devincenzi-Clemens under the supervision of by our named school beekeeper Mr Ricky Taylor. Ricky is a registered member of the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) and has also been an active member in keeping and maintaining hives in the UK. He is currently managing several hives at The Tovey Cottage Educational Centre, upper Rock here in Gibraltar.
Working together with the school, Mr Taylor has provided advice on our risk assessments, which are used in other UK schools. He will continue to be a source of support and monitoring, both in his role as ‘Bee Inspector,’ and as a visitor to provide our ‘Bees in the curriculum’ programme of study.
Risk assessment advice has also been sought from CLEAPSS, and their guidance document L221, ‘Developing & Using Environmental Areas in School Grounds’ together with the BBKA published information forming our risk assessment document.

What can we learn from bees?

Science – life cycles, habitats, metamorphosis, pollination, food production & food handling.

Practical skills – Wood working skills, making frames for hives, using calculations to ensure an accurately spaced hive, (the concept of the 6mm bee space).

Maths & IT – shape, dealing with cell hexagons, budgeting and costing, entrepreneurial skills of business in selling our honey and wax creating spreadsheets.

Art & History – Exploring the link between prehistoric man, early civilisations, cave paintings beekeeping and art. Creating their own artwork for our Loreto Honey jar labels.

Legislation and Regulation – Children will learn about EU legislation regarding honey sales, labelling, accurate measuring and weighing, adhering to rules and regulations.

Resilience & Confidence – Looking through a hive of up to 40,000 bees takes confidence! Establishing endurance and an ‘I can do this!’ attitude, is so important in preparing our children for the next steps in life… from transition to secondary school, to bigger issues in their own lives.

English – Enormous opportunity within the English curriculum, from creative writing, alliteration, and poetry.

Life Opportunities & Responsibility – The children will have the opportunity to care for livestock with all it entails… to having the chance of viewing the life and times of the honeybee in a sustainable and managed way which ensures the colonies survival year on year.

Responsibility also comes from a realisation that their own actions, behaviour and interactions with others and nature, often have both near and far consequences.

Extended Learning
Should the pupils want to become further involved in beekeeping, they can study for the Junior Beekeeping Certificate. This course will only run if numbers are sufficient.

Here are a few interesting bee facts

  • Bees are the only insect in the world that make food that people can eat.
  • Honey contains all of the substances needed to sustain life, including enzymes, water, minerals and vitamins.
  • Eating honey can help make you smarter! It is the only food to contain ‘pinocembrin’ that is an antioxidant that improves brain function.
  • One bee will only make 1/12 of a teaspoon on honey in its entire life.
  • Many plants rely on insects like bees in order to be pollinated; which is why they provide nectar to say thanks.
  • A colony of bees can contain between 20,000 and 60,000 bees, but only one queen bee

Enhanced Risk Assessment – School Apiary – Bee stings

Honey bees sting only as a last resort, when a worker bee stings, she is mortally wounded and dies. Careful handling and quiet behaviour at the hive therefore reduce the risk of a sting, but suffering the occasional sting cannot be ruled out for anyone dealing directly with bees.

Wearing appropriate protective clothing is essential, as this too, significantly reduces the chance of being stung. The sting apparatus of the honeybee has its own ganglion, (nerve mechanism) the sting is barbed and fixes into skin, once embedded, it is torn from the bee’s abdomen, and the apparatus continues to pump venom until the sting is removed.

The sting therefore should be extracted as quickly as possible to minimise the dose of venom. Contrary to the information in many textbooks, it makes no difference whether the sting is pinched out of the skin or flicked out. The valve mechanism in the sting apparatus prevents the flow of venom even when the sting is squeezed or squashed. It is simply important to remove the sting as rapidly, by whatever means is easily available.

Dealing with stings will be explained and taught before bees are handled.
Anaphylactic shock is an extreme reaction to a substance, bee sting venom can cause anaphylaxis, but this is very rare. Usually, a sting is of no significant risk to the victim but is irritating and or painful. A cascade of chemical events caused by the venom, can lead to redness, warmth and tissue swelling at the site of the sting. This normally develops over the following 24-48 hours and does not mean the site is infected.

Standard treatments are the application of steroid cream, (1% hydrocortisone cream is available over the counter at pharmacies).

If the reaction to a sting proceeds to an anaphylactic reaction, the victim passes through a series of reactions into a state where breathing can be become compromised and blood pressure falls, causing ‘shock’ Formal medical assistance and involvement of the emergency services would become essential, and a matter of urgency.

Risk Assessments and Protocols for Loreto Convent School’s Apiary

  • Questionnaire is sent to all participants if adults or children, before involvement with the apiary about any history of severe reaction to bee stings. Anyone having a severe reaction will not be permitted to enter the apiary.
  • Normal after school club ‘sign up’ will be needed for pupils to join the gardening club which incorporates the bee club, joining gardening club does not automatically lead to direct contact with the bees.
  • Parental consent to be sought before any children handle bees.
  • Potential beekeepers will be advised that anaphylactic reaction is extremely rare but will receive instruction about bee sting reactions & appropriate actions before handling bees.
  • From September 2021, pupils will complete basic awareness of the Apiary knowledge, before being allowed to handle bees.
  • The age, maturity and behaviour of pupils will be considered before allowing them to handle bees.
  • Chemical treatments may be used as part of Varroa control, these will be only used by the named Beekeeper, (Mr Taylor) or as instructed for Mr Devincenzi-Clemens and administered during weekend/school holiday inspections when there are no pupils in school. Chemicals will be stored in external locked chemical store with the school premises team.
  • Beekeepers will be reminded of appropriate behaviour before entering the Apiary and may be asked to leave for the health & safety of both bees and Beekeepers if quiet and sensible behaviour is not forthcoming.
  • Mr Devincenzi-Clemens is a First Aider and will be present when pupils or staff are handling bees. Specific first aid treatments are available in the nearest first aid location.
  • A mobile telephone will be carried by the lead Beekeeper in the apiary, and the full address of school will be displayed within the apiary, along with the grid reference of the hives. Here is our What3Words location, latter,angle.dinner
  • Ratio of supervision will be 1 beekeeper to 4 pupils maximum.
  • The Apiary environment and equipment will be regularly examined and maintained, to ensure it is safe and fit for purpose. Hive tools will be cleaned after each inspection to prevent build-up of any harmful pathogens to bees.
  • The apiary is to be kept tidy and free from obstructions at all times.
  • A written and dated record of all hive inspections will be kept for each hive.
  • The apiary is to be kept locked at all times.
  • Protective clothing to be kept in good clean condition, and always cleaned if they have been used at another apiary, to prevent any potential cross contamination between hives.
  • All hives will be kept on purpose built stands for the benefit of the bees, and to reduce back strain for the beekeepers.
  • Protective clothing MUST be worn by all beekeepers/visitors at all times when inside the apiary.

Live Video of our new Apiary site.

To provide a live webcam streaming of the hives enabling us to view hive activity, showing the inside of the hive during inspections.

What’s been going on?
Busy with the bees! – Letter written by parent Lynette Chaudhary sponsor of one of our bee hives.

May 2022 – Bees in the Curriculum talks at St Mary’s First School and Governor’s Meadow First School in Gibraltar. For more information please contact by email here.

Pupils at St Mary’s Lower Primary School enjoyed an interactive ‘Bees in the curriculum’ presentation by Gib Bees and Loreto Convent School. Pupils learned all about bees and where bees live before engaging in some fun activities, and enjoyed looking into a real beehive and touching a real frame with honeycomb.